by CU Athletic Communications
OXFORD, MISS. - Kyle Wilkie had a career-high four hits with three RBIs and Davis Sharpe pitched the final 6.2 innings in his first career relief appearance to lead Clemson to an 8-4 victory over Illinois in the opening game of the Oxford Regional at Swayze Field on Friday afternoon. The Tigers, who moved into the winners' bracket, improved to 35-24, while the Fighting Illini dropped to 36-20. It was the first meeting between the two teams since 2000 and the fourth meeting in history.
In the top of the first inning, Wilkie ripped a two-out, run-scoring single, then Zac Taylor responded with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the first inning and Branden Comia laced a two-out, run-scoring single in the second inning. Michael Green led off the top of the third inning with his third home run of the season to extend his hitting streak to 12 games, then Grayson Byrd blasted a two-run homer, his 16th of the season and 11th in the last 16 games. Illinois plated a run in the bottom of the third inning on Cam McDonald's single to narrow Clemson's lead to 4-3.
In the seventh inning, the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs, then Wilkie hit a two-run single. Later in the frame, Byrd scored on a fielder's choice. Clemson added a run in the eighth inning on Byrd's third hit of the game.
Sharpe (7-4) earned the win by pitching 6.2 scoreless innings to close the game. Illinois starter Ty Weber (4-3) suffered the loss, as he yielded four runs on six hits in 4.0 innings pitched.
The Tigers play the winner of the game between No. 12 Mississippi and Jacksonville State in the winners' bracket on Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT.